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England v India: Jonny Bairstow passed fit and will play as specialist batsman

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England v India, fourth Specsavers Test
Venue: Ageas Bowl Date: 30 August – 3 September Time: 11:00 BST
Coverage: Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW and the BBC Sport website. In-play clips and live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app. Full tour details

Jonny Bairstow will play as a specialist batsman in England’s fourth Test against India despite breaking his finger in the third-Test defeat.

Bairstow was injured keeping wicket at Trent Bridge and was replaced behind the stumps by Jos Buttler, who will once again take the gloves

Sam Curran replaces the injured Chris Woakes, while all-rounder Moeen Ali comes in for batsman Ollie Pope.

England, 2-1 up, will seal the five-match series with a win in Southampton.

The series was kept alive by India’s 203-run win in Nottingham, where England lost all 10 first-innings wickets for 161 in one session.

England have not lost back-to-back home Tests for 10 years and a continuation of that run would ensure they cannot lose this series, extending their unbeaten record in home series to nine.

India, the top-ranked Test side, must avoid defeat in Southampton to keep the contest alive going into the final match at The Oval.

“Even though we struggled last week, one thing you can never say about this group of players is that they lack character,” England captain Joe Root told BBC Sport.

“Whenever in the past we have had a bad week, we usually bounce back pretty strong, especially at home. I expect that to be the case this time around. There will be people with a point to prove.”

England’s pair of glovemen

Jonny Bairstow
Jonny Bairstow, centre, averages 13 more runs with the bat when he keeps wicket

Despite suffering the injury to the middle finger of his left hand, Bairstow said on Tuesday that he was still hopeful of being able to keep wicket in Southampton.

However, Root confirmed that a “medical” decision had been taken to remove the gloves from the Yorkshireman.

Still, the skipper would not be drawn on if this would be England’s set-up once Bairstow is fully fit.

Bairstow has a superior batting Test batting record when he is the designated wicketkeeper, averaging 13 more runs with the bat when he keeps compared to when he does not.

Conversely, Buttler’s Test batting average goes up by 14 runs when he is freed of the gloves.

However, all of Bairstow’s five Test centuries have come in the first innings of a match, before he has spent time behind the stumps, while Buttler made his maiden Test century in Nottingham after spending much of the third day with the gloves.

“We’re very fortunate to be blessed with two brilliant international keepers,” said Root. “Jos has a huge amount of experience. It’s a no-brainer with a slight injury to Jonny that Jos comes in to take that role.

“There’s no assurances been given to Jonny. It’s like anything in international sport. If you get an opportunity and you take it, someone else has to work hard to get your spot.

“Hopefully it drives each of them on to keep improving and developing their game.”

England shuffle the pack

Moeen Ali
Moeen Ali has taken 133 Test wickets for England in 50 matches

Moeen made a double century for Worcestershire last week and returns for his first Test in March in place of Pope.

Root explained that Pope’s omission is not a reflection on the 20-year-old’s performance, but a tactical decision that enables Moeen provide cover for the bowling of Ben Stokes, who has a slight knee problem.

“It’s a tough call to leave Ollie Pope out, he’s not done a huge amount wrong,” said Root. “I thought he showed a lot of promise. Everything we’ve seen in him he’s delivered, to a degree, on two very challenging surfaces.

“It’s a decision made for balance and making sure that we had plenty of bowling options. It’s not a decision made on how he’s gone in the two games. I’m sure you’ll see a lot of Ollie Pope in the future.

“Stokes is able to bowl, but with the concern over the knee, we just wanted to make sure we had plenty of options to take 20 wickets.”

It is yet another change to the top order for England as they seek to reinforce a fragile batting line-up that has been four wickets down with the score on 100 or less in half of their past 62 innings.

So far this summer, England have replaced opener Mark Stoneman with Keaton Jennings and Dawid Malan with Pope, who has now been left out.

Curiously, they have returned to the top seven that ended the series in their 4-0 defeat in India in 2016, albeit in a different order.

“Ultimately the guys know what they need to do,” said Root. “We are clear on how to score the runs. It’s about putting that performance in on the field.”

Batsman James Vince, who had been named in the initial squad as cover for Bairstow, was released and will rejoin Hampshire, as the first day of their County Championship match against Essex was washed out by rain.

England XI for fourth Test

Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Joe Root (capt), Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Sam Curran, Adil Rashid, James Anderson, Stuart Broad.

India in an ‘exciting position’

India fought their way back in to the series with the huge win in Nottingham, only their second Test success in 13 matches in England.

Four years ago, they led 1-0 after two matches, only to lose the next three Tests, a run which began with defeat in Southampton.

Now, after being 2-0 down, captain Virat Kohli believe his team have “gained momentum at the right time”.

Kohli added: “Last time around we probably didn’t have the experience to capitalise on the lead. Right now we understand that we are in a very exciting position.

“We spoke about making sure that we are relentless and ruthless in terms of capitalising on those important moments, which we did in Nottingham.

“We also understand that we will have to do that two more times for us to achieve the goal and not be satisfied at all with one victory only because if Nottingham was hard work this is going to be even harder.”

Kohli also confirmed that off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who struggled with a hip problem in Nottingham, is fit to play in Southampton.

Bbc.com

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